Good Gnus

Kindle Front Cover My Everest.001

I got some good news on the famous author front this morning from Indie BRAG letting me know that my little hiking book, My Everest, has been awarded a BRAG Medallion. Basically, this is an award that lets readers know that this self-published book is well-written, interesting and (in this particular case) if you like hiking, nature and dogs, you’ll be very happy. It’s $3 for Kindle, $7 for paper back. Heres the link to Amazon.

Here’s the blurb from the book’s own website. 

Dog Stars



“Yeah. I had no idea. Stellar.”

The golden retriever and the indeterminate mutt shook the water from their coats and headed back to shore.

“My human taught me that.”

“No way.”


“I was really scared the first time. I mean, that stuff is for drinking or drowning, right?”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“But! Exactly!” So she took me out there with her. I was trying to get away and then all of a sudden — BAM — I got it and she let go. I was riding a wave, she was riding the same one and we were looking over at each other.”

“You did this with your HUMAN!”



Manzanita and Rocks

The manzanita in this photo was a destination for Molly and me — a minor destination. The kind where you stop, look in awe at a hundreds of year old immense beautiful plant, sit down, give your dog some water, get up and keep going to a real destination. In this case, our destination was a small spring fed pool in a narrow fissure between some of the earth’s oldest rocks up in the Laguna Mountains.

I’ve known some rocks that are more than 1000 million years old — very common rocks, the bedrock of the Earth, pre-cambrian gneiss. They offered a lot of good lessons in patience through change.

Truffle Swimming

Truffle “fishing” in a seasonal pool in the “Indian kitchen”

These particular rocks had been used by Indian tribes for hundreds (thousands?) of years for all the things Indians can use rocks for — weapons, tools, cisterns, grinding holes, laundry. A person who was paying attention could imagine a small band of Indians doing their chores with the help of those ancient rocks, grinding acorns or maybe releasing the fibers of yucca to make sandals and ropes.

In October 2003 an immense fire — 273,246 acres — swept through parts of Southern California — both of these places, in fact. The ancient manzanita was burned to the ground. The oak trees north of this seasonal pond where my dog is swimming were burned to the ground, too. But the rocks — except for some staining from orange fire retardant — were still there, still the same. And the manzanita? The roots hold a manzanita’s life. By spring, shoots of the future had already emerged. I wonder what she looks like now, 15 years later.


It is actually cloudy and rainy here in drought-stricken southern Colorado, but it’s going to take a lot of rain to reach the target of 7 inches for the year. It won’t happen today. Having lived in California so long where fire restrictions in the mountains are strict, I’m amazed that people are upset that they can’t have campfires. There are a lot of great camp stoves on the market so it isn’t about food (except maybe s’mores). It must be some latent primordial urge to gather around the camp fire and sing “Kum-ba-yah.” I just want to yell, “Get over it. You can have a good time without a campfire.” The fire near the town of Durango is so large and dangerous, that the San Juan National Forest has been closed. Some guy even posted (in protest) on Facebook that it’s unconstitutional to close a national forest.

The first year I moved here, I bought a few expensive iris from some fancy company. Of course, I forgot what they were called, but who cares? I wanted them to grow. I wasn’t going to call them in for dinner. This year — their third year — sticking their pretty faces out toward the sun — they’ve been so beautiful and so cheering. I’ll separate them this fall and share them with my neighbors. I have also been given iris by friends and it’s a very sweet thing to walk around the neighborhood and see our gardens sending up brothers and sister flowers.

I love iris – for themselves and for nostalgic reasons. My parents planted a little field of them outside our back fence in Englewood (their first house) and when I was old enough — 4 or 5 — and had colored pencils, my dad told me to draw them. They were the simple beautiful purple iris and drawing them was a kind of magic.

In those same years, my Aunt Kelly lived next door to a man who’d turned his whole back yard — 1/4 acre+ — over to irises. She’d come to visit with actual ARM loads of irises. She and my mom would rush to find vases for all them. The fragrance filled the house.

In California, irises were hard to grow so I didn’t have any until I moved up to the mountains (3500 feet) where we had a few snows a year and cold temps in winter. I had a field of iris and I was very happy.

Here are a few pictures — not nearly all the different ones I have but during some of their blooming time, I wasn’t all that ambulatory.


I have had the good luck to have an excellent education. I wasn’t the smartest kid in my high school by any means, but I did well enough that I got a scholarship to Colorado Woman’s College from which I transferred to the University of Colorado in Boulder. I was doubly lucky because my dad was a deceased veteran (he saw no action in WW II, death was from other causes) and so, as his dependent, I got a stipend from the VA. I would rather have had my dad, but… While there, I discovered a consuming project that led me to want to go to grad school so I could write the thesis. I did that.

To do that meant I had to read a lot — that was fine. I’d already read a lot. Any kid who reads travels through time, awakens the imagination and learns words. I like words (encouraged by both parents who loved poetry) and so as time went on though I didn’t score well on spelling tests I knocked the boat out of the water on vocabulary tests, including the SAT.

In graduate school I learned — among some other stuff — that 1) I loved teaching writing and 2) I’m not an academic type. I didn’t pursue a PhD. I had little respect for my professors — only two out of the whole lot of them — and I didn’t want to make my life meetings with these strange people. It wasn’t me. I did my thesis and went in search of gainful employment as a secretary then a paralegal then I went to China to teach. Yeah.

In the fullness of time, I discovered I write historical fiction. THAT requires superlative research skills which I had learned during my short career as an academic.

So here I am in the San Luis Valley of Colorado where graduating high school is still a pretty big deal for a kid — AS IT SHOULD BE!!!!

Yesterday at physical therapy there was a lot of general talking (it’s a friendly place) and the old boy who was a DJ in Denver made the comment (after I said, “I didn’t really fit in academia” to my therapist when he asked me how I liked grad school) “You sure sound like one. You speak their language.”

I wanted to punch him, but he was already pretty fucked up, and it would have been wrong.

“It’s a language,” I said. “Anyone can learn any language.”

So what the fuck is it, the flashing light that says, “ACADEMIC!!!” when I open my mouth. I don’t know. My therapist took me into another room, and we proceeded with the work we had to do. But I could see that he knew I was irked.

So here we are all sensitive to skin color, body size, gender identity, but a smart person who has gone to school and put in the work and the discipline, that’s a stigma?

It’s not the first time in my life that’s happened. It’s just the loudest.


Stayin’ Alive

Yesterday I had tea with my nextdoor neighbor. She recently had some surgery on her eyes to repair the ravages of time. She looks good and can see better already. I sat with my operated leg forward because I’m always aware of what you (dear readers) may not be aware of, and that is the 90 degree rule. I’m not going to explain it. If you get there and have to learn about it, you will enter a world of new awkwardness. A week ago as I took my walk, another neighbor came out of her house to join me. We talked about our friend’s upcoming eye surgery and that led, of course to the subject of cataracts. It’s a small town and we all have the same eye doctor. “He said maybe next year,” she said, “but I’m not doing it until I have to.”

We’re just a bunch of high-mileage cars at this point.

Meanwhile, almost every waking moment of my life is directed toward regaining my physical strength and coordination so I can go hiking. My physical therapist is on my team, and yesterday we did different exercises to teach my hip joint what its job is.

At physical therapy was what my uncle Hank would call an “old boy.” He was riding “my” bike though it’s not my bike any more since I can get on my bike here at home. When he was finished, he started flirting with me. I thought, “Wow. Old people hook up at physical therapy.” You have to remember we’re from the Hey babe, what’s your sign?” Generation. It’s surreal.

“I used to be a DJ in Denver; I did the news in the 70s,” he said.

“What station?” I asked.

He mentioned a station I vaguely remembered, then said, “I moved on to KIMN.”

“I listed to that, in my car, until my radio broke.”

“People today don’t think of the Carpenters as rock, but everything was rock,” he said.

“It was a big genre back then,” I said.

The conversation went on, and then he told a joke. The joke is the reason I’m writing this blog post.

A turtle came out of a bar, a sheet or two to the wind. It had been raining and the sidewalk was slippery. The turtle tripped and flipped over on his back. It wasn’t long until the snails had come out and started crawling on him. He was helpless. Then a cop came along, saw the situation and righted the turtle. “What happened,” he asked.

“I don’t know,” said the turtle. “It all happened so fast.”

Progressive Party

Lucille arranged the smokey topaz necklace, bracelet, and rings on her body as if she were adorning a Christmas tree. “This is smokey topaz,” she said to her son’s girlfriend, Beth, a petite brunette she didn’t particularly like. Her beautiful boy could do better than that. After all, her husband was a full colonel. “It’s my favorite stone and the colonel always buys it for me on our anniversary.” Her dress — a two piece Duponi silk number handmade for her in Seoul, their last posting — matched exactly the smokey topaz ring on her right hand. “I had this made before we came back to the States,” she said. “Why be in Asia at all if you’re not going to have some silk dresses?” She reached back to be sure her French roll was perfectly smooth.

Downstairs the colonel had plunked a couple of ice cubes into a highball glass and was pouring a few fingers of Scotch over them. He swirled the glass around a few times and took a drink. “Here we go,” he thought.

She’d be down any minute. The house was brand new. She’d “absolutely LOVED” the stairs. “I can just SEE myself coming down the stairs in a beautiful cocktail dress, can’t you?”

Whatever he thought of his smokey topaz wife, he never said. “Loose lips sink ships,” that old war slogan, applied to marriage, too. And Roland? That insipid drip of snot that was their child and heir? Definitely his mother’s boy. The Colonel didn’t even know how to talk to him.

“Doll!” he called up the stairs. “Are you about ready? A progressive party means we progress!”

“You don’t need to be sarcastic,” she answered back. “I’m putting on my shoes. I’ll be down in a minute.” She slid her feet into black pumps.

The colonel took another drink from the highball glass. Whatever. He didn’t want to go anyway, but Lucille had to show off all that topaz. It was their first social event in the new community.

Beth, Roland and Lucille came down the stairs. The colonel set his drink on a coaster on the glass-topped coffee table and picked up his wife’s mink-collared cashmere coat from the chair. “You look beautiful, darling,” he said holding the coat.

“Thank you, love.” She reached behind her and patted his cheek. “I don’t know when we’ll be home. You kids be good.”

As they walked down their street, the colonel wondered whatever happened to a nice sit down dinner or good old potlucks like in his parents’ day. “This is it,” said his wife, looking at the invitation. “The Oberhausers. Appetizers.” An overdressed woman opened the door, invited them in.

“Come in, come in. Introduce yourselves to everybody — we’re all new here, you know, just like the neighborhood!” A portly older man reached out a hand to shake, “What’s your poison?”

For the next hour, they stood around the appetizer table. Decorated for Christmas, it was replete with the julienned carrots, celery and spinach dip, shrimp and cocktail sauce, mixed nuts, melba toast and cheese spread. They all made small talk with the same people with whom they’d make small talk at the next stop — entrée.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Roland had opened the back of his bass speaker and pulled out a bag of weed. He took out a few pinches and rolled it neatly into a joint.

“My dad has NO idea I brought this back from Korea,” he said, proudly, lighting it and taking a hit. “Here.” Roland hoped it would help Beth overcome her hesitancy. Perfect moment. Parents gone, plenty of weed, leopard print bedspread, him in little blue underwear. What could be sexier?

“I’m going home,” she said. “See you at school Monday.” She let herself out the front door and headed home through a neighborhood that had been open fields only a year before. She didn’t know much, but she knew she didn’t want to end up smokey topaz or anything like it. And Roland? He really did have little squinty-piggy eyes. Her brother was right.

PT Poetry

“Did I tell you about my skis?”

“No. Here, now do some bridges, engage that core and keep squeezing the basketball between your knees.”

“That’s four things!”

“You can do it, Martha. The anesthesia is about gone by now. Your brain can maybe manage it.”

I laughed.

“Now what about your skis?”

“Oh I was at that flea market on the 285 with some friends. We went into the back room part there and I was looking around and there was a pair of skis exactly like the ones I had when I moved to California from Colorado in the 80s. Back country skis.”

“They called to you, didn’t they?”

“They did. My friends looked at me with pity, so I just put them back, but later on, I went back by myself. I looked them over, and the left one, you know like this?” I pointed to my recently repaired hip, “it’s pretty badly delaminated. That’s why I bought them. They are like me.”

“Like you were delaminated.”


“So it just needs to be fixed, some epoxy, stuff.”


“Did you get it repaired yet?”

“No. I’m waiting until…”

“I’ll fix them for you.”

“You fix skis?”

“Yeah. I’m a ski guy.”

I kept bridging, “The tips are kind of messed up, too.”

“Probably need a rivet.”

“Yeah.” Then he handed me a Theraband. “OK now very gently move your knees outward. Not too far. All we’re doing is teaching that new joint how it works.”

“You see the poetry in that?” I knew he would.

“Your left hip and your left ski?”

“Yeah, but you’re helping me learn to walk well again and make this new joint work so I can do what I want and you’re fixing my skis.”

I told him about my plans to hike the San Franscisco Creek Trail, too. Around here people call it “Frisco Creek” but I can’t do that. No one in California calls San Francisco “Frisco” — it seems like an abomination. I’ll get over it, maybe, but I kind of like St. Francis.



San Francisco Creek Trail (upper part)


“Maybe next year,” he said.

“Yeah but…”

“You can do the lower part, though.”

“I’m thinking November to give it a try.”

“That’ll be possible, a couple of miles, I think. It’s kind of like this,” he moved his hand to show up hill and down hill. “But nothing too steep those first couple of miles. You’ll be able to do that.”

“I’m good with it taking time. When I first lived in California I was in terrible shape. I didn’t know where to go, what to do, how to live there, then I found a place. At first — well it was me and a five-month old puppy — I could only go half a mile. But then, I kept going and, yeah. I love that. I love the whole thing of becoming better at something, able to go farther, being stronger. Anyway, however long it takes, at the top is an alpine lake and some peaks.”

“We’ll get you there,” he said.

And I believe him.

Pickled Herring

My ancestry is 34% Scandinavian, so you could say my brother and I were born into the Smorgasbord world, but… There is 56% other stuff in our DNA so my brother’s love for the single smorgasbord restaurant in Denver in the 50s could not be blamed totally on genetics.

It could be blamed on pickled herring.

Cream Herring 2


If you are lonesome for a Daily Prompt, this is a rapidly growing site where you might find just the inspiration you’re looking for!

Smith-Corona_Classic_12_Portable_Manual_Typewriter_BlueCreate a new post inspired by today’s prompt.

Please tag it “RDP” and “Ragtag Daily Prompt”.   Create a pingback to atavism . If the pingback doesn’t work, copy your link in the comments below.


View original post